Ghost Tales in "Sefer Hasidim": An Examination of the Role of the Dead and Notions of the Afterlife among the German Pietists and Jews of Medieval Ashkenaz
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This dissertation centers upon the use of ghost tales in the Pietist work, Sefer H&dotbelow;asidim, as a means for exploration of the larger issues of the role that the dead and beliefs about the afterlife play in the book and in medieval Ashkenazi society in general. In doing so, it reveals the extent as well as the nature of outside Germano-Christian influence upon the work, while, at the same time, distinguishing between those areas where that influence affects both Ashkenazi Jews and Pietists and those in which the influence is detectable solely in Pietist thought and practice. It examines the origin of the Germano-Christian influence on Sefer H&dotbelow;asidim by comparing it with external contemporary sources---material such as Icelandic sagas, ancient Germanic tales, high medieval exempla tales, early medieval visionary accounts, historical/literary chronicles, miracle stories, saints' lives, and monumental church art. It uncovers the nature and extent of the influence by contrasting the material contained in Sefer H&dotbelow;asidim with internal Jewish sources, both antecedent (Rabbinic, post-Rabbinic, and Geonic literature) and contemporary (Tosafist commentary, Halakhic literature, piyyut commentaries, illustrated texts, and other Pietist writings). It aims to enrich our understanding of Ashkenazi Jewish culture in general and the unique worldview of the Pietists in particular.